Leclerc shows his class
In what turned out to be a Ferrari dominated qualifying session, it was the up and coming superstar Charles Leclerc who managed to pip his senior teammate for pole position. This performance vastly justifies his selection as a prancing horse driver and will serve as a major boost to his confidence. Sebastien Vettel, who had a rather rough outing managed to grab the 2nd spot, two-tenths behind pole securing a front-row lockout for the scarlet team.
Mercedes never really looked to be hitting the sweet spot during the first two sessions, lagging by more than half a second behind the Ferrari’s. Lewis managed to beat his teammate for the final of the top 3 positions, thus breaking Valtteri’s “undefeated by a teammate in Bahrain” qualifying streak. Good news for Mercedes is that their Race Pace looked stronger in practice and will be hoping to maintain that in the race to give themselves a chance. RedBull were struggling with Max qualifying only 5th while Gasly finished 13th. The Frenchman had trouble with his rear end which did not allow him to get up to push limit of the car. Max reported being not perfectly happy with car balance. Team Principal, Christian Horner also mentioned that they were struggling to keep the tyre in the correct temperature window. Lots to work on for the energy drink team to get it right for the race.
Midfield tight as ever
The midfield looks packed as ever, with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen leading the way. He had a fabulous session after which he mentioned that he took everything out of his car. His teammate Grosjean qualified 8th, but was stripped 3 places for impeding Norris’s run in Q1. He was also negative point on his licensing, getting his tally to 8. A total of 12 in a year earns a 1 race ban. McLaren performed really well and were there at 7th and 10th position at the end of Q3. Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo qualified 9th in another solid run in a rather mediocre car.
It was a disappointing session for the Renault team, who couldn’t reach Q3. Ricciardo qualified 11th while Hulkenberg could get out of Q1. Toro Rosso looked good in parts, with Albon doing a decent job again qualifying 12th while Kvyat had some problems starts 15th. Rather disappointing outing for Racing Point who never looked challenging, with Perez in 14th and Stroll 18th. Williams had another dismal outing, being 1.5s adrift of the 18th place car of Stroll. There is some serious issue with that car.
It promises to be a great race at the top and also among the midfield teams. There is literally zero margins for error anywhere on the track and one who blinks loses. The start, strategies will be very interesting to look forward to. RedBull will be looking to get back on harder tyres as soon as possible to maximise their chances, while Ferrari have the dilemma of which driver to support. It will be a fascinating race. Join me here for the live commentary of the race.